Thursday, 10 December 2009
"London's parks and gardens used to be full of house sparrows. These once common birds have seen a terrible fall in numbers and are now hardly seen in the centre of London at all. One reason for this seems to be a poor supply of food - insects and seeds - for them to eat."
The LHSPP has set up a trial of grass and flower mixes in 20 parks across the city and are monitoring them for insects and seeds and to see whether birds use them.
I did ask if the RSPB had considered conducting any of their trials in Hilly Fields - or Lewisham, at least - but they said they wouldn't be working in our area.
The two trials closest to Hilly Fields are Burgess Park and Peckham Rye Park, both in Southwark. Other trials south of the river are in Beddington Park, Cheam Park, Perrets Field, Rose Hill Park east and St. Hellier Open Space, all in Sutton plus Tooting Bec Common in Wandsworth.
The types of plot they are testing are:
"Long grass: the original park grass left long to give insects somewhere to live over winter, and to provide birds with grass seed.
"Wildflower meadows: a mix of native grass and flowers planted to provide seeds, give insects somewhere to live, and also to provide more nectar for insects.
"'Wildlife Seed' plots: a mix of flowers and other plants often found around edges of fields, that should provide a lot of seed and should also be good for insects."
If you'd like more information, you could try the RSPB London Office: 020 7808 1240
For advice on gardening for wildlife, visit Homes for Wildlife
Saturday, 28 November 2009
Now it's looking like I'll not get any time in the park this month at all, so all I can say is "better luck next month".
Meanwhile I can report that the RSPB has started a new project, the London House Sparrow Parks Project, this time working with eight Borough Councils, excluding Lewisham unfortunately, testing whether long grass, wildflower meadows, or a tailored 'wildlife seed mix' best provide foods that house sparrows need. This is a three year trial and they have agreed to keep me informed, so I'll occasionally be passing on snippets of news.
The RSPB hope the project will also raise awareness of the plight of the ‘Cockney sparra’, and that they can encourage people to consider sparrows in their own gardens too, beyond providing bird feeders, water or nestboxes. Leaving areas of longer grass and maintaining thick shrubby vegetation should help provide them with somewhere safe to feed, roost and nest.
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
“After 5 years of counting your local sparrows, the project is now coming to an end. We are very grateful to all of you for your kind help over the years, whether you helped feed the sparrows, allowed us access to your gardens, or plied us with welcome cups of tea.
“So what have we found after five years of feeding sparrows? Feeding mealworms during the summer increased nesting success of sparrows in every year. However, we only saw an impact of feeding on adult numbers when we fed year-round seed as well as mealworms. [A graph then shows that] adult numbers increased on fed sites, only after seed feeding was introduced in 2007. This suggests sparrows lack sufficient insects to feed their young, and also seed to get them through the autumn and winter.
“With a focus on a few sites over the winter we've been able to work out the “survival rates” (percentage surviving from one year to the next) of our sparrows at the fed and "unfed" sites. Analysis suggests that about 51% of our colour-ringed birds are getting through the winter months, which is pretty much the figure that is cited in other studies as the percentage annual survival for house sparrows. So it doesn't appear that our sparrows are unduly suffering over the winter. It does sound like a lot of birds perishing each year - we have to remember that such small creatures are often rather short-lived, and that maintaining the population depends on a lot of young being produced to counter this.
“For our last fieldwork we looked at a few sites this summer to check on our survey methods for fledglings” [this included the Cliffview Road site; Bird Champ].
“Meanwhile, our exciting new project has begun. The RSPB House Sparrow Parks Project. Officer, Jacqui Weir, with the help of the Royals Parks, the London boroughs and SITA Trust, is trying out large scale experiments on London's green spaces, to find out what sort of park management is best for bugs and seeds, and therefore sparrows and other birds. This is an amazing project which will hopefully produce improvements to London's grassland biodiversity! Jacqui [email@example.com] is the primary contact for your enquiries about this work
“Once again thank you to everyone for your amazing support, we could not have done it without you. And please do visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/ for more details of how you can continue to support our work. In the meantime, please keep looking after your local sparrows!”
So that’s it. The end of the London House Sparrow Project. We’ll miss Chris Orsman’s regular visits here and thank him again for the generous donation of seed, feeder and nest boxes for Hilly Fields Park.
Friday, 25 September 2009
In recent weeks it seemed that every time I had the opportunity to get into Hilly Fields it was either very windy or raining or Prendergast School was just out. The three worst time to see the birds.
This morning was delightfully different. First I filled the birdfeeder in the Quiet Garden then took a walk across the park. That's when I spotted the first Mistle Thrush in the West field just north of the meadow; a few moments later it was joined by another and a couple of minutes later another pair showed up. They were seeking food in the grass and gradually making their way south to the meadow.
I didn't have my camera with me, which is rare, so took a few photos with the mobile phone. In my excitement I forgot that its zoom facility is purely electronic so, since I took most photos at full zoom, the resulting jpegs are only 15KB instead of the normal 3MB and appallingly bad resolution. The best of them has been put through Photoshop to enhance the three birds but you still need the arrows to see exactly where they are.
Thursday, 6 August 2009
Sunday, 19 July 2009
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Friday, 8 May 2009
Until now, they've been monitoring 66 sites around London on a roughly monthly basis, half of them fed with live food and the other half (including ours) are control sites. They are now dropping sites with fewest House Sparrows and intend to monitor the remainder (including ours) on a weekly basis.
To this end Chris, armed with clipboard and binoculars, will be peering over garden hedges around Hilly Fields Park surveying the nesting sites, many of which are in our roofs. Before he begins this new phase next week, Chris intends to visit those houses to introduce himself and assure you he’s not up to no good!
Sunday, 5 April 2009
I was in the park yesterday, Saturday, to fill the birdfeeder which was completely empty. It was a joy to find almost the entire garden carpeted with flowers - see pic.
Glendale have begun to trim the hedges along the Cliffview Road side of the park. The first few metres of hedge are trimmed.
Also there's new planting and fences repaired - thanks mainly, I understand, to Keith the Park Keeper.
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
The top 10 for Greater London are:
and our own results for Hilly Fields (we had a tie for 10th place) are:
Black-headed GullThe full RSPB results can be found here
Blue Tit, Magpie, Common Gull
Blackbird, Ring-necked Parakeet, Mistle Thrush
Thanks again to all who took part in Hilly Fields.
Friday, 20 March 2009
I found it quite interesting, especially because it mentions the 66 test feeding sites around London, of which my garden is one. Also, about 20 minutes in, Chris Orsman describes how they catch and ring birds - Chris is my contact at RSPB and visits my garden and Hilly Fields Park regularly to survey the birds.
If you'd like to hear more of the mystery of the disappearing sparrow, you have until Thurdsay 25th March 2009 to Listen Again, so here is a link to the programme's website.
Saturday, 14 March 2009
Flitting from branch to branch today were about 16 House Sparrows, a solitary male Blackbird and a pair of restless Goldcrests. I've received a few reports of Goldcrests in the neighbourhood but this is the first time I've spotted any in Hilly Fields over the last couple of years. The BirdTrack site has none at all reported for Hilly Fields (or map reference TQ3775) since their records began in 2005.
This is a stock photo of a Goldcrest, not mine.
Often described as a snooker ball with legs, they're the smallest British bird and suprisingly common as there's probably 5M pairs around in the winter months, reducing to 1.5M pairs in the summer.
Very slightly larger and much much rarer at 400 pairs is the Firecrest, similar but with a bold white eyebrow.
The park was quite busy, so few other birds were around except 10 Woodpigeons and a pair of Magpies in the meadow.
3pm Friday 20th March
Sorry to say the hedge hasn't been trimmed yet, let's hope that late trimming doesn't disturb the all-too-rare House Sparrows.
Thursday, 12 February 2009
(This is a stock image, not one of today's birds)
Hilly Fields Park User Group - Keep up-to-date with what's happening in your park.
Bird Track - Enter your sightings in this national database (see here for info)
RSPB - For everything you want to know about birds.
C J Wildbirdfood - Bird food and feeders at reasonable prices.
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Monday, 2 February 2009
I don't think I've ever seen so many people in the park as there were today - except for organised sport, the turn of the millennium and Concord's last flight - and I've certainly never seen so many snowmen anywhere. They were all sizes and shapes; one looked sculpted and another was an elephant's head complete with tusks.
Here are photos of a few of them.
While in the park I didn't see any birds at all, although I could hear birdsong in a few places.
I made up for this shortfall in my own garden, which backs onto the park, where there were up Robin (2), Starling (4), Chaffinch (2), Woodpigeon (3), Blue Tit (3), Great Tit (1) and House Sparrow (c20).
Sunday, 25 January 2009
There were birds to draw, masks to colour and wear, quizzes to solve, bird-feeders to make from flowerpot, lard and seeds then decorate and hang around the park or take home to hang in the garden.
Best of all, there were more species seen in the park today than have ever been seen since our records began.
All the more rarely seen birds were on display but the star of the day was a newcomer: a Redwing was first spotted with two Mistle Thrushes in the meadow near the road and later seen on the slope in front of the school.
The full list of birds is:-
Black-headed Gull 23
Blue Tit 10
Carrion Crow 4
Common Gull 3
Feral Pigeon 6
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Great Tit 2
House Sparrow 14
Mistle Thrush 2
Ring-necked Parakeet 2
Everyone had a great day.
Special thanks to Lara and Rachel and, of course, the birds of Hilly Fields.